Let Their Voices Be Seen: Exploring Mental Mapping as a Feminist Visual Methodology for the Study of Migrant Women


This article explores how mental mapping can be used as a critical methodology for feminist migration studies. In a case study of female marriage migrants who settle in rural areas in South Korea from other Asian countries, I attempt to develop mental mapping to supplement verbal interviews. Mental maps of hometowns and current neighborhoods drawn by my interviewees represent their geographical imaginations and complex identity negotiations that mirror the change in their social locations. In order to understand multilayered meanings embedded in the images and the way in which power relations existent between the researcher and the researched affect the map production, I suggest a critical reading of the maps. The article shows how a reflexive and intertextual reading makes a difference to the interpretation of the maps. It argues that the maps are not mere reflections of the women’s cognition, but rather socially constructed texts through which their desires, emotions, feelings and internal contradictions are expressed and negotiated. My research suggests that mental mapping, if ethically performed and critically evaluated, has potential as a means to convey the unheard voices of the marginalized to diverse audiences.